Hardship endures for so many


To the Editor:

You would think that on the privileged island of Martha’s Vineyard there could not be poverty and hunger. But Betty Burton’s Thanksgiving appeal [Family to Family, November 21] in the MV Times took me way back to my childhood, when food was all we thought about most of the time. It also brought home the realization that some things in this world never change and never go away, first and foremost hunger.

When I was 12 years old in 1945, and the war at last was over, we lived in the country in a village in Germany where we as yet did not have any friends or even acquaintances who might have slipped us the odd potato or beetroot.

Then, around Christmas Time, we got a letter from the CARE organization that an old friend in Ohio had ordered a food package for us, which we could pick up at an office in the town of Waiblingen upon presentation of the letter.

There was no public transportation in those days, so we had to prepare for a three-hour walk there and another three hours back to get our treasure. My mother and I dressed up as warmly as we could. Mother still had a winter coat, and I got wrapped in all the wool scarves the house had to offer. I had a pair of boots from a fallen soldier. I was very proud of them. They were way too big, but not having socks, I wore rags in the boots anyway, and one of my sisters lent me two extra ones, so I didn’t fall out of my boots and was that much warmer too.

We took our old sled along to transport the package, and on the way there, it was light and no hindrance. Also, the prospect of food for the family cheered us on tremendously. We wondered what would be in the package. The weather held, although it was very cold, so the time passed quickly.

The way home turned out to be more difficult. The wonderful package was really heavy, and in places the old snow cover failed, so that dragging the sled sometimes got hard. And it being the middle of winter, it got dark early and began to snow. At least we did not have to worry much about traffic. Except for occasional U.S. Army vehicles, there was nothing moving, so we could walk in the middle of the road.

When we got home, we opened the package — Christmas for the whole family — and found all sorts of unimaginably wonderful things. Almost everything came in dark olive colored cans, even bacon and eggs and tapioca pudding. It was a feast.

My mother held back a can of fruit salad, the kind of stuff I can now buy in my local Stop & Shop, and when soon afterwards I came down with the flu with a high fever, I got the fruit salad. I can’t tell you how wonderful and delicious that was!

I think if we spent even half of our military budget on food for the hungry instead of hardware, we would have a lot more friends in the world.

Brigitte Lent